Cost of prisoner's stay in custody stands at €68k a year, TDs told

The public spending €68,000 a year to keep a prisoner in jail due to shelter, heating, food and recreational costs, a senior Government official has confirmed.

Department of Justice secretary general, Aidan O'Driscoll, revealed the cost of sending someone to jail during a detailed meeting with TDs yesterday.

During the latest Dáil public accounts committee meeting, Mr O'Driscoll told Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy that the average cost of a prisoner's stay in custody now stands at €68,000 a year.

After Ms Murphy said the scale of the costs shows the value of sentencing someone to non-jail time where possible when they commit an offence, Mr O'Driscoll said he agrees completely with this approach.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy.

However, he emphasised that the reality is that non-custodial sentences are not always possible due to the risk of "recidivism" among offenders, and that there is a need to ensure there are consequences for crimes.

A view Ms Murphy agreed with, saying:

It [sentencing people to punishments that do not involve prison time] only works if there is a degree of sanction if you don't comply. That's why you have to try to have some balance.

The €68,000 cost is based on the price of housing someone while they are in jail, providing heat, electricity, food, health checks and recreational activities.

Mr O'Driscoll's figures are mirrored by recent statistics from the Irish prison service which show that it costs the State approximately €1,842 per week to jail a convicted felon.

The total €68,000 a year cost is up from the 2013 figure of €65,542.

However, it has been noted the average cost for each prisoner is skewed by the fact some prisoners need extra security, ramping up their - and the average - costs.

They include a number of republican prisoners in Portlaoise, where the average cost for housing a prisoner is significantly higher at close to €90,000 a year.

Previous figures have also shown tthat Ireland pays approximately €2,773.38c to house a juvenile prisoner for just one day - higher than anywhere else in Europe.

The 2017 Council of Europe figures said the Irish cost at the time is far higher than the €897.65c figure in Northern Ireland, €303.48c figure in England and Wales, and the Europe-wide average figure of €283.58c.

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